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D'Arcy: squad mood good

Gordon D'Arcy projects an attitude of confidence, moderation, patience and the Wexford man isn't in the mood for excuses.

And if his cool and composed temperament is an accurate barometer for the Leinster squad this weekend in Castres, then focus will not be an issue. D'Arcy has been in consistent form all season for the province, belying his age and record appearance number (which stands at a hugely impressive 231 for his native province).

His match-winning try provided the catalyst in Galway last weekend, same as it ever has it seems, but this weekend the knock-out nature of European ties will ask a whole new series of questions of the Leinster team.

The nature of a Sunday lunchtime kick-off brings about its own tweaks and challenges; earlier to bed and earlier to rise, not to forget squeezing two meals in before 10am.

"It can be a slightly different challenge for us on Sunday, but we've faced many challenges in France over the years. It is a difficult place to go and win. But I have faith in the squad that we can go over there and play positively and try to build on our last two wins.

"The mood is good in the squad. We know that we're in control of our destiny and if we can pick up two good results over the next two games then we will get a quarter-final.

"But, to be honest, we're not allowing our minds to drift any further past Castres. They have a good record at home and they're the Top 14 champions and it's clear that they have a strong squad across the park."

D'Arcy has been encouraged by the positive strides of a number of players from the Academy over the last 12 months and he believes that the squad is in good shape in the short and medium term.

"Over the course of the last year a few players have stepped up and are adding a lot to the competitiveness of the squad.

"The likes of Jack (McGrath) and Jordi (Murphy) have been consistent performers for us over a longer period of time, while the likes of Marty (Moore) and Brendan Macken are picking up important experience against top teams.

"All of their experiences will stand to them. But the one thing you would have to say is that the players coming out of the Leinster Academy are a completely different animal from when I would have first gotten into the Leinster set-up.

"The systems and the ethos were completely different. We're building a culture at Leinster where players work hard and they have all earned the right to be selected."

Away from the field of play, D'Arcy and his wife, Aoife, have recently opened up a Reformer Pilates Studio on Grattan Street, mixing exercises that both have used in different ways over their careers.

It is, he says, an exciting sideline away from the day job.

"It is called Form School," explains D'Arcy. "The Reformer part of it comes from the Bed, which is one of the main selling points of the studio.

"These are beds with a frame and a series of adjustable springs and pullies and foot bars and a sliding carriage in the middle of it. It makes for a safer, more comfortable way of exercising.

"It is something I have used quite regularly through many years of my rugby career. We have some of them out at Leinster Rugby. It also turned out to be something Aoife used quite often in her job when she was modelling. We came to realise that we had two unique ways of coming at the same thing.

"I think it's exciting to see new businesses starting up and we're heading in the right direction.

"It allows for a nice dry run into January when people traditionally dust the cobwebs off the gym gear and make a push with their New Year's resolutions."

Another aspect of life as a rugby player is travelling. After more than a decade going the length and breadth of Ireland, the UK, France and Italy, D'Arcy believes that playing away from home can get the best out of players.

"Travelling is travelling", he says with a smile. "It's not as big a deal anymore, particularly when you factor in how well we're looked after. We get the best possible care and attention for our travelling needs, with nothing left to chance. So by the time you leave home, you just have to show up with your passport and your boots and you're good to go!

"Once you know the schedule each week, you plan accordingly and then you get your head around the preparation. Then once the game is over you set about doing your recovery and getting your body and mind right for training and the next game.

"Next week will be a challenge because we will have a five-day turnaround coming into the Ospreys game. But our focus is only on Castres this week. They're a lot different to other French sides in that they look to play a lot more rugby and are very clinical in broken field play.

"It we can dictate the tempo and try to impose ourselves physically then we'll give ourselves a good chance of getting a win. We know that we have to be mentally ready."

Ready, willing and able.